HS2 protests in Birmingham as Bill to extend to Manchester is laid in Parliament

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Anti HS2 activists gather in Birmingham as Bill to extend the line from Crewe to Manchester is debated in Parliament

HS2 protesters gathered around Curzon Street today (Monday, January 24) as the Bill to expand the high speed rail line from Crewe to Manchester is debated in Parliament.

Activists from Stop HS2 North and HS2 Rebellion came to Birmingham for a “National Day of Action”.

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Protesters told BirminghamWorld that they were raising awareness of the environmental and financial impact of phase 2 of the railway.

Meanwhile Transport Secretary Grant Shapps hailed Bill as a “landmark moment” in improving the North West’s rail connections.

The Department for Transport said that Phase 2b of the high-speed railway will cut travel times by around 55 minutes for journeys between London and Manchester, and up to 45 minutes for trips between Birmingham and Manchester.

It will also at least double capacity on those routes, the DfT added. The Bill includes plans to open the line between 2035 and 2040.

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Northern leaders have opposed the Bill because it included scrapping HS2’s eastern leg between the East Midlands and Leeds, and a failure to use new lines for the full Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) project boosting east-west connections.

Stop HS2 Activists, BirminghamStop HS2 Activists, Birmingham
Stop HS2 Activists, Birmingham | Local TV

Why are the HS2 protesters opposed to the Bill to extend the line to Manchester?

A Stop HS2 North spokesperson said the bill will sanction “immense and irreversible destruction to the environment”.

They also argue that the initial cost of £37 billion has risen to potentially costing over £110 billion.

Victoria says: “So people have come here together today to draw attention to the fact that this HS2 project - the hybrid bill - is being called out for going up north, and they don’t want it.

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“It’s not actually serving the people. And people have known this for 12 years right back at the beginning - they said this project is out of date, we should be upgrading the railways that we have got.

“We’re not working in time with nature, you know, all over the world the planet is breaking down. HS2 knows that this is not carbon neutral and won’t be for 120 years. And we’re building this high speed train when people need to be travelling differently.”

Victoria, HS2 activist, BirminghamVictoria, HS2 activist, Birmingham
Victoria, HS2 activist, Birmingham | Local TV

Bob says: “It’s a huge amount of money - it would be far better being spent on improving local and regional public transport, for example, having free public transport at the point of use for buses, and local regional trains. That would cut down car use - a much better use of the money.”

“There’s also the environmental question, they’re knocking down huge swathes of forest and green areas, digging it all up and causing pollution by the vast amounts of cement, and steel that they’re using.

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“So the whole thing is environmentally destructive, hugely expensive, and it’s for the benefit of the fat cats and the super rich who are using this train, not for ordinary people.”

Bob, HS2 activist, BirminghamBob, HS2 activist, Birmingham
Bob, HS2 activist, Birmingham | Local TV

What has the government said about the latest HS2 Bill?

Extending HS2 from Crewe to Manchester was included in the Government’s £96 billion Integrated Rail Plan (IRP) published in November, although it has been part of the high-speed rail project since it was given the go-ahead by the coalition government in January 2012.

The IRP caused outrage among many northern leaders because it included the scrapping of HS2’s eastern leg between the East Midlands and Leeds, and a failure to use new lines for the full Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) project boosting east-west connections.

But the Government insists the IRP will result in similar benefits from previous plans, and they will be delivered quicker and with better value for taxpayers’ money.

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Mr Shapps said: “We are determined to improve transport connections and level up communities across the country, and this Bill marks a landmark moment as we bring HS2 to Manchester and lay the foundations for Northern Powerhouse Rail.

Environmental activists from Stop HS2 North and HS2 Rebellion protest outside the Curzon Street Station site in BirminghamEnvironmental activists from Stop HS2 North and HS2 Rebellion protest outside the Curzon Street Station site in Birmingham
Environmental activists from Stop HS2 North and HS2 Rebellion protest outside the Curzon Street Station site in Birmingham | PA

What has HS2 said about the Bill?

HS2 Ltd chief executive Mark Thurston said the project has “an integral role to play in levelling up and rebalancing Britain’s economy”.

The extension to Manchester “fuels that role by bringing the country’s economic centres in the North and Midlands closer together”, he added.

The Bill will allow HS2 tracks to be installed and new stations and junctions to be built at Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Airport.

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